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Rescue of trapped children begins

Rescue officials prepare to receive the boys and their coach as evacuation begins at Tham Luang cave in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai, on Sunday. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

Rescuers have begun an operation to bring the 12 trapped children and their football coach out of the Tham Luang caves.

"Today is D-day. The boys are ready to face any challenges," rescue chief Narongsak Osotthanakorn told reporters who were cleared from the cave entrance at mid-morning on Sunday. "We are at peak readiness."

Mr Narongsak said the boys and their coach, Ekkapol Chantawong are physically and mentally fit for the rescue bid.  Water levels at many spots in the cave are currently low, providing the best chance for the rescue to be carried out, he added.

Mr Narongsak said the evacuation decision was made after consultations with all concerned, including Seal members, the medical staff and families of the trapped persons.

He said the first rescued person is expected to be brought out of the cave by 9pm.

Reporters are ordered to move 2 kilometres back as final rescue preparations began on Sunday at Tham Luang cave in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

A source said the football team will be divided into four groups. The first group will have four people, while the second, third and fourth will have three people. Each boy will be closely escorted by two divers.

According to rescue authorities, 14-year-old Adul "Dul" Sam-on will be one of the first four kids to come out, while the coach will be the last.

Scores of divers were seen entering the cave after dawn on Sunday, and shortly afterwards there were orders for "unnecessary personnel" to clear the area to "help victims".

No other information was given, and all media were ordered to retreat 2km from the cave, protesting all the way.

The preparations indicated that officials have abandoned all extraction plans except for helping the boys to swim and dive the approximately 5km from their refuge inside the cave to the outside world.

World experts had weighed in on the problem for days.

Technology guru Elon Musk, who is consulting on possible rescue methods, tweeted that he was considering "a tiny, kid-size submarine" for a rescue.

He added, Continue to be amazed by the bravery, resilience & tenacity of kids & diving team in Thailand. Human character at its best.


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